Saturday, July 17, 2010

Nepal: Nepal must respect the professional freedoms of lawyers and human rights defenders

Maoist army members bid farewell to young people discharged from cantonments in western Nepal on 30 January 2010

UN - The United Nations human rights representative in Nepal today underscored the importance of respecting the professional freedoms of lawyers and human rights defenders in a meeting with Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda.

Richard Bennett, who heads the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal), expressed his concern to the chair of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) over reports that some lawyers and rights defenders have been castigated by Maoists, both directly and indirectly, for their work.

He also repeated his Office’s strong message that the Maoists must honour their commitments under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was signed in 2006 and ended a decade-long civil war that claimed some 13,000 lives in the South Asian nation.

In particular, Mr. Bennett called on the Maoists to fully cooperate with Nepal’s justice system and not to protect its members as it has done in the case of the killing of Ram Hari Shrestha, a local businessman murdered by members of the Maoist army earlier this year.

Other instances include the bombing of a bus in Madi, in the Chitwan district, which killed nearly 40 people and for which the UCPN-M claimed responsibility. To date, none of the five cadres identified as being behind the incident have been detained or investigated.

“The UCPN-M must demonstrate, in a practical sense, that it respects the rule of law and keeps its commitments to put an end to impunity, bringing those responsible for abuses to justice,” Mr. Bennett said after his meeting with the party’s leader.

“While any individual or party is entitled to voice their disagreement, this should not be expressed in a way that is perceived as threatening against individuals who work to provide a remedy and justice to the victims of human rights or international humanitarian law violations in Nepal,” according to a press release issued by OHCHR-Nepal.

The Office also underscored the importance of being able to carry out its work without fear of hindrance and with confidence that the rule of law will be respected.